Appearing at Monday’s virtual Mipcom marketing event, Netflix Chief Executive Ted Sarandos defended the child pornography film “Cuties” his company recently released, to massive backlash.
The film has been charged with exploiting 11-year old girls, who are featured in highly sexual and suggestive scenes that include twerking, inappropriate clothing, and even nudity. State and federal officials have labeled the hyper-sexualization of young girls in the film criminal.
“It’s a little surprising in 2020 America that we’re having a discussion about censoring storytelling,” Sarandos told Deadline. Sarandos claimed the film is simply “misunderstood” and if you just watch it, the movie “speaks for itself.” It is just a “coming-of-age” story, he added.
The initial outrage over French-Senegalese Maïmouna Doucouré’s film was ignited after Netflix released a promotional poster in mid-August that depicted the four main-character young actresses in suggestive poses and exposed midriffs. Netflix apologized for the film’s artwork, calling it “inappropriate,” but did not stop the film from being released on their platform in September.
Since its release, a growing campaign to “cancel Netflix” ensued, and “#CancelNetflix” was a top trending topic on Twitter for several days in September. A series of petitions, signed by hundreds of thousands, have encouraged people to cancel their Netflix subscriptions. Not even “America’s mom,” Michelle Obama, who has a $50 million Netflix deal, has been immune to the overwhelming criticisms facing the steaming service.
One former Netflix user wrote on Twitter said that she will definitely not be re-subscribing after hearing Sarandos publicly defend the film.
Last year, Netflix pulled an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act” in Saudi Arabia after the country’s government complained. Minhaj was sharply critical of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in the episode.
“We strongly support artistic freedom and removed this episode only in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request — and to comply with local law,” Netflix stated.
It would appear that while Netflix is comfortable bowing to pressure from a foreign government known for egregiously oppressing women, they are simultaneously eager to defend the sexual exploitation of 11-year old girls. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said at the time, “Well, we’re not in the news business… we’re trying to entertain.”
Indeed, many critics insist the Netflix film is more about entertaining sick minds than an innocent “coming-of-age” story. Last Tuesday, a grand jury in Tyler County, Texas indicted Netflix, Inc. for “knowingly” distributing the graphic and “lewd” film “Cuties.” Texas State Rep. for District 6 Matt Schaefer announced the indictment, tweeting a picture of the official document.
Netflix, Inc. indicted by grand jury in Tyler Co., Tx for promoting material in Cuties film which depicts lewd exhibition of pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 yrs of age which appeals to the prurient interest in sex #Cuties #txlege pic.twitter.com/UJ1hY8XJ2l
— Matt Schaefer (@RepMattSchaefer) October 6, 2020
“Netflix, Inc. indicted by grand jury in Tyler Co., Tx for promoting material in Cuties film which depicts lewd exhibition of pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 yrs of age which appeals to the prurient interest in sex #Cuties#txlege,” wrote Schaefer.
Both Democrat and Republican members of Congress are demanding the Department of Justice investigate Netflix for distributing child porn via “Cuties,” which many people believe sexualizes young girls and encourages pedophilia. In a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz urged the Department of Justice to investigate whether the film violates child pornography laws.
“I urge the Department of Justice to investigate the production and distribution of this film to determine whether Netflix, its executives, or the individuals involved in the filming and production of ‘Cuties’ violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography,” Cruz wrote.
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) September 12, 2020
Hawaii Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also accused Netflix of being complicit in pedophilia and child trafficking.
.@netflix child porn "Cuties" will certainly whet the appetite of pedophiles & help fuel the child sex trafficking trade. 1 in 4 victims of trafficking are children. It happened to my friend's 13 year old daughter. Netflix, you are now complicit. #CancelNetflix pic.twitter.com/GI8KFH7LFq
— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) September 12, 2020
Many in the corporate media have jumped to defend the film, in addition to a number of leftists in Hollywood, like actress Tessa Thompson, who called the film “beautiful.”
Disappointed to see how it was positioned in terms of marketing. I understand the response of everybody. But it doesn’t speak to the film I saw. https://t.co/L6kmAcJFU1
— Tessa Thompson (@TessaThompson_x) August 20, 2020
Critics of the film fired back, saying the disturbing and graphic imagery defeats the purpose of exposing the oversexualization of children in our culture. Lila Rose, a pro-life advocate and campaigner for children’s rights, explained that, “You don’t fight child exploitation by exploiting children.”
You don’t fight child exploitation by exploiting children. You don’t stop child pornography by creating, selling and distributing child pornography.#CancelNetflix
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) September 11, 2020
Filmmaker Sonia Poulton sounded off on Twitter saying, “If you call ‘Cuties’ art or a ‘social statement’. I call you a child abuser. We have no time for niceties while children are being sexualized for mass entertainment. #CancelNetflix”
If you call ‘Cuties’ art or a ‘social statement’. I call you a child abuser. We have no time for niceties while children are being sexualised for mass entertainment. #CancelNetflix
— Sonia Poulton (@SoniaPoulton) September 10, 2020